Proof that Digital Magazine Readership is Up, Print is Down, and What to Do About It

digital magazine

As preferences for digital magazine consumption go digital, here’s a list of all the ways you can improve your multiplatform editions.

Last week we published this year’s 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study. We’ve been running this study since 2014 to analyze digital magazine adoption, and have come across new interesting findings each year:

  • In 2014, 20% of respondents said they currently read or subscribe to digital magazines on their tablets.
  • In 2015, one third of respondents said they’d read a digital magazine in the last 30 days.
  • In 2016, we saw a 17% increase in adults reading digital magazines, and a 2% drop in print magazines read.

Fast forward two years to 2018 and this year we discovered the drop in print magazine issues read from 2016 was nearly 12% while digital magazine issues read was up over 11%. Another interesting observation is that digital magazine readership, as a percentage of all magazine readership, climbed from 32% in 2016 to 37% in 2018. At this pace, digital magazine readership as a percentage of all magazine readership will break 40% in 2020.


Our study is based on the responses of U.S. adults, so all data refers to the consumption habits of 18+, which makes it even more impressive, given the adoption rate. As we see more of the younger generation hit the adult age bracket, we expect these numbers to change dramatically.

Based on the results of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study:

  • 42.37% of the 3,358 surveyed reported having read an average of 2.66 digital magazine issues in the last 30 days. Compared to 2016 (41.46% reading an average of 2.59 issues), this represents a:
    • 11.43% increase in issues read
    • 2.19% increase in penetration
    • 6.13% increase in adults with Internet access
    • 8.46% increase in adults reading digital magazines

We also inquired about their print magazine consumption. We found that:

  • 62.76% of US adults reported having read an average of 2.72 print magazine issues in the last 30 days. This represents an 11.98% drop in print magazine issues read (69.76% of 2.84 issues in 2016).

So what should you do with this information? Start thinking more about your digital editions, not just on tablet, but your web editions as well.

Here is a resource list of ways to improve your tablet magazine:

And here is another, which includes all the ways you can improve your web magazine, which we think is where most of your effort should be spent:

Here’s where the biggest issue lies: When you switch from print to digital, you can’t lose the core characteristics of your magazine.

When you moved from print to tablet, you didn’t lose them. The content stayed linear, a table of contents remained, and a user could complete an issue. Although we’re against PDF editions, they’re still better than most of the HTML web magazines we see out there because at the very least, they hold true to the magazine experience.

When it comes to building a web magazine, which we believe is where the industry is going, you should stick to three important principles to make it a best-practice edition:

  1. Offer scrollable HTML articles (not a PDF, although the user may also download the PDF)
  2. Be issue-based (so you know if you’re in the November issue or the December issue)
  3. Have a table of contents, preferably staying with the reader on every page of the issue OR has some other way to make clear what issue they’re in and how to easily visit other articles from the same magazine.

Ideally the magazine is designed to be responsive, so it can be viewed on any device. It doesn’t look like your print magazine, and it doesn’t look like your tablet magazine, but it contains all the same content, and in order to remain linear and digested as an “issue,” it follows the three rules above.

If you are looking to transform your legacy print brand into a multiplatform publishing empire with profitable digital editions, let’s talk about how we can help you get there.


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